Hicks will take charge of Grand Final

The Grand Final is heading for a sell-out

The Grand Final is heading for a sell-out

Robert Hicks will referee his first Super League Grand Final after being appointed to Saturday’s title decider between Warrington and Wigan at Old Trafford.

He took charge of the last game between these two sides, which the Warriors won 35-28, and was criticed by both Shaun Wane and Tony Smith afterwards for the number of penalties he awarded.

Both coaches admitted they profited from harsh decisions which went against their opponents. Hicks also sin-binned Stefan Ratchford and red-carded Ben Flower, is free to return after serving a suspension.

Oldham-based Hicks, 34, who refereed the semi-final between Wigan and Hull, became a Super League referee in 2010 and was in charge of the Fiji-Papua New Guinea Test earlier this year.

Ben Thaler, who was in charge of last year’s final as well as last Thursday’s semi-final between Warrington and St Helens, will be the video referee on Saturday.

Meanwhile, former Royal Marine Jack Smith has joined the Rugby Football League’s full-time panel of referees.

The RFL has also promoted Scott Mikalauskas, taking its full-time match officials team back up to nine following the recent departures of Richard Silverwood and Sam Ansell.

The appointment completes a remarkable climb up the ranks for Wiganer Smith, 27, who took up refereeing only four years ago when he was forced to retire from playing after being shot by a Taliban sniper while on duty in Afghanistan.

“I’m excited to be part of the full-time team,” said Smith, who made his Super League debut in June.

“I feel the full-time environment will help me learn more and take my officiating to the next level.

“I’m looking forward to joining a great group of people on a full-time basis - they have all been very helpful and welcoming during my spell as a part-time official and I’m already looking forward to seeing what 2017 brings.”

Mikalauskas, also 27 who played for Golborne Parkside in the North West Men’s League up to the start of this season, will quit his job as a school house learning co-ordinator to take on the role.

“As much as I enjoyed officiating, I never thought it would lead to being given such a fantastic opportunity,” said Mikalauskas.

“My father inspired me to take up the whistle and my aims now are to become a firm fit in the full time refereeing structure and to continue to progress and improve my performances.”